WorkWise: Consistant focus essential in job hunting

Mildred L. Culp

Businesspeople constantly talk about focus, especially after they lose it. Job seekers have a particularly difficult time maintaining focus after they’ve established a target. This column will discuss three people from the East, South and West and how their ability to focus simplified their job searches. All three spent eight to nine months job hunting.

John Maher, HR coordinator at EF Education First Ltd., in Cambridge, Mass., brought experience that worked for and against him. He’d been an HR coordinator for a leading multinational luxury hotel for about a year and, after moving to Boston, worked at the chain as Club Lounge manager, where he managed six concierges.

“I wanted to return to HR, even if that meant leaving the bigger company I’d become a part of,” he says. “In some people’s eyes, I’d passed the level of professional experience to be an HR coordinator. In other people’s eyes, I didn’t have enough HR experience for another HR coordinator role.” Seemingly random feedback about the problem made it impossible for him to see a pattern and re-target his efforts.

His solution was somewhat simple -- keeping his eye on the ball and heeding the confidence-building words of his recruiter. She reminded him, he recalls, that “any organization hiring could be looking for something very specific, that not meeting their requirements” only indicates lack of fit.

In addition, Maher networked to sharpen his resume and get ideas about how to approach his search. The fact that he was working full-time, with benefits, infused a feeling of security. He started his new job May 27, where the content of his work has a strong international component.

Brooke Welch, vice president and account director at San Francisco’s Van Prooyen Greenfield L.L.P., encountered quite a different problem. She knew exactly what she wanted -- a job that wouldn’t require her to settle. However, the concept was one thing; its details, another. She hadn’t a clue, except that after five years in civil litigation, she didn’t want to work at a law firm. All she knew was that she’d be using her legal skills in a new environment.

“Where do I go to find this ideal job (I can’t describe)?” she asked herself. The few resources in her industry kept turning up jobs in law firms. After eight months, during which time she had a baby, she applied for one job that truly interested her. Her interviews at the boutique legal PR and Marketing firm “felt more like conversations with the principals,” she says. She loves the PR and media strategy for trials of high-profile cases.

Susan Hawkins, senior copywriter for e-commerce for The Shops at 24Seven in Norcross, Ga., writes articles and product descriptions for several sites and blogs. Her perceived liabilities, individually or combined, could daunt just about anyone:

-- Age: 59.

-- Obsolete job search skills (last job hunt: 1985)

-- Lack of agency experience after a career in other types of jobs and business ownership.

So there she was, 59, out of the job market for more than 20 years and feeling insecure about not having agency experience. Meanwhile, she attended free job seminars to get up to speed. Removing the dates from her resume helped.

“Oddly enough,” she says, “I went to 1.5 job interviews before I got this job. “One was for a job that wasn’t a good fit, but I wanted to get my feet wet in the interviewing process. The other came to me through networking, a morning breakfast with short, round-robin interviews at a large PR firm looking for several freelance writers.”

“Networking was the key,” she continues, “even though I got my job through the Internet, because it was through networking that I got wind of workshops and events that were free.”

Maher and Hawkins knew what they wanted, and Welch knew what she wanted to find. Their tenacity kicked in.

Dr. Mildred L. Culp is an award-winning journalist. E-mail questions or comments to Copyright 2008 Passage Media.